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Take Five Breakdown: Florida-LSU Preview

October 14, 2021
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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This Saturday at noon in Death Valley, Dan Mullen’s Florida football squad goes on the road seeking revenge for last year’s loss in the Swamp. 

Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown.

Allen Barney spoke with Dylan Sanders of The Reveille,LSU's student newspaper, and Les East of Crescent City Sports,  for answers to five burning questions as well as previewing five LSU players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.

Five LSU Tigers to keep an eye on

Max Johnson, Quarterback, Sophomore

  • The Skinny:  With former Super Bowl quarterback Brad Johnson as his father, Johnson is familiar with the spotlight that comes with playing the position. The younger Johnson burst onto the national scene in 2020 when made his first collegiate start at then No. 6 Florida and outplayed Heisman candidate Kyle Trask to the tune of 21 completions for 239 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, and 3 touchdown passes. The lefty from Athens, Georgia is second in the SEC with 17 touchdown passes and third with 1,730 passing yards. The Gator secondary will have to have razor focus to avoid Johnson carving them up for the second year in a row.

BJ Ojulari, Defensive End, Sophomore

  • The Skinny: Ojulari had a solid true freshman season in 2020 with four sacks and five tackles for loss. He has taken his game to another level in 2021, Ojulari is tied for second in the SEC with five sacks and has surpassed his 2020 tackle total with 19 through six games. The Gator offensive line has stood out as a run-blocking unit and improved in pass protection, but they face a huge test in trying to stop Ojulari. I expect he will be able to get a couple of clean shots on Emory Jones and can create havoc by forcing Jones to make quick decisions in the passing game.

Damone Clark, Linebacker, Senior

  • The Skinny: According to East, Clark was expected to take on Devin White’s role at the position in 2020 and struggled but has got better each week in 2021 and will be a key part of stopping the Gators' run game. Clarke leads the team and the SEC with 68 tackles, that number is good enough for second in the FBS division. If LSU wants to pull of the upset on Saturday, Clark will have to step up to stop the run and create pressure with Ojulari in passing situations, I would not be surprised if Clark leads the Tigers with more than 10 tackles on Saturday.

Malik Nabers, Wide Receiver, Freshman

  • The Skinny: With Keyshon Boutte out for the rest of the season, the Tigers will be looking to new names to step up at the position. Nabers has missed a few weeks this season due to injury, but Sanders says that his role will increase as the season progresses. “He is finally finding his footing, and especially with Boutte out, expect to hear his name and see #8 a lot,” Sanders said. He set new career-highs with 3 receptions, 66 yards, and his first touchdown last week at Kentucky.

Sage Ryan, Defensive Back, Freshman

  • The Skinny: Like Nabers, Ryan has dealt with injuries during the early part of the season but is now healthy and will be expected to step into a larger role with the ghastly amount of injuries the Tigers have suffered. Ryan has the pedigree from being a five-star recruit and everyone has high expectations for him. “Sage is crazy athletic and will be seen all over the field for the next few years.”, Sanders said. I expect Sage to come into the box and help with run support and be active in pass defense since he will be playing in the nickel position.

Five Fast Facts

  • This will be the 68th matchup between the two programs with Florida leading the series 33-31-3. LSU holds the advantage in recent years by winning the past two matchups and three out of the last four.
  • The 11 a.m. local kickoff time at Tiger Stadium will be the first of its kind since 2019 when LSU hosted Utah State, LSU is 10-3 in the previous 13 games. For the first time since 2017 against Arkansas, LSU will have an 11 a.m. kickoff at home versus an SEC team. This will be only the second time the Gators and Tigers have an 11 a.m. kickoff at Tiger Stadium, the Gators won the first time in 1995 by a score of 28-10.
  • LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is 3-3 all-time against the Gators with all three of his wins coming as head coach of the Tigers. Orgeron is 48-17 since becoming the lead man for LSU during the 2016 season and is 18-11 against ranked teams at LSU. All three of Orgeron’s wins against Florida came when the Gators were ranked at the time of the game.
  • LSU is second in the SEC with 20 sacks and allowing 26.2 points per game but have allowed 12 touchdowns in three conference games. In those three conference games, they have allowed 6.98 yards per carry, which is 13th in the SEC and their success rate of 45.37 is the worst in the conference.
  • LSU is one of five teams in the FBS division to be perfect in the red zone, they are 16-16 with 11 touchdowns and five field goals. The Tigers have thrown at least one passing touchdown in 35 consecutive games.

Five Game Day Storylines

Will Max Johnson carve up the Gator defense for a second year in a row?

  • As mentioned earlier, Johnson shocked the nation with his play in a night game in the Swamp. “He is smart and unusually poised for someone starting just their ninth game on Saturday.”, East said. Johnson did not look or play like a true freshman last December and has only improved upon that performance by becoming one of the top passers in the SEC. This game will be at home, but Johnson will have to lean on different targets in the passing game with Boutte out for the year. Even when their top receivers are out, the best quarterbacks find a way to move the ball successfully by creating connections with new players.

With the team in the midst of a two-game losing streak, and the kickoff being at 11 a.m., will the Tiger fans show up and create a hostile environment for the Gators?

  • Tiger Stadium is one the best home-field advantages in college football and the team have used that advantage for years by making sure that when the Gators come to town it is a night game on most occasions. The last time the Gators won at Tiger Stadium was 2016 and that was a Noon kickoff. East and Sanders both said that there will be a good number of fans but nothing like a 7 p.m. kickoff. “The mystique of Death Valley is dissipating for a ton of reasons. I don’t know if this coaching staff will allure another big crowd.” Sanders said. It will be fascinating to see if a smaller crowd, less hostile crowd will hurt the Tigers' morale or if the Gators will continue to use a clap for their snap count.

Do the LSU players view the Gators as a major rival?

  • This series has become one of the best matchups in the SEC over the past 15 years. The winner of this game in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2019 would go on to win the national championship. There have been several classic moments on the field that will be remembered forever but the level of bulletin-board material between players and fan bases has made this one of the more heated rivalries in the SEC. “It’s been no secret that these two schools do not like each other. The two teams will give each other their best.”, Sanders said. I will be keeping my eye on the LSU players in pre-game and in the 1st quarter to see if they will use the mental game to get into the Gator players’ heads and create momentum for a team that hit rock bottom in Lexington last week.

With so many injuries to key players, who is expected to step up and lead the Tigers on Saturday?

  • With Keyshon Boutte out, Sanders said that Jack Bech has become a security blanket for Johnson and could lead the team in reception/targets for the remainder of the season. If the Tigers want to take a deep shot, Sanders said either Nabers or Deion Smith will be the targets. The Gator secondary has been susceptible to giving up big plays in the passing game and I expect Johnson will be able to hit a couple of shots downfield. On the defensive side of the ball, the injuries are even worse with starters Derek Stingley, Eli Ricks, Andre Anthony, Ali Gaye, and Major Burns all out. Expect Cordale Flott to move back outside and try to build on his good start and Maason Smith to help Ojulari with the pass rush.

Will Ed Orgeron be shown the door if LSU loses to Florida?

  • What a fall from grace for Orgeron, he and his team were the stars of the 2019 college football season. Since that National Championship Game win against Clemson, Orgeron and LSU have fallen on hard times. According to East and Sanders, unless LSU were to lose in a historically bad fashion to the Gators, expect Coach O to stay in charge. Regardless of a win or a loss, Orgeron will need to get big wins down the stretch to stay off the hot seat.

Game Prediction

Florida 34, LSU 24.

Take Five Breakdown: Florida-LSU Preview

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